The 7 stages of grieving Jamaal Charles’s torn ACL and saving your fantasy team

For the NFL‘s most dynamic fantasy football running back, Sunday had been business as usual. Jamaal Charles amassed 58 rushing yards and 26 receiving yards early in the third quarter—on par with his career average of 5.5 yards per carry. No other running back has done better over the last five years.

In an instant, however, a non-contact injury blew out the Kansas City Chief star’s right knee when Charles landed awkwardly; a torn ACL ended his season. At 28 years old and having bounced back from the same injury to his other knee like a Greek god, Charles will recover and be fine in 2016. He’s already tweeting with optimistic vigor.

We can’t say the same thing about your fantasy team. 

You have work to do. Charles was the cornerstone of your offensive attack and you need to revamp the gigantic hole he leaves in your lineup. Take my hand—let’s cry together and navigate these troubled waters. Here are the seven stages of grieving this broken ligament. 

1) Shock

Losing a bookend to your fall plans is a jolt, but let’s at least pan outward.

Recall the poor fortunes of so many other early picks through Week 5: Dez Bryant, Jeremy Hill, C.J. Anderson, Eddie Lacy, Andrew Luck, Jeremy Hill, Demaryius Thomas, Alshon Jeffery, Kelvin Benjamin, Jordy Nelson, DeMarco Murray, LeSean McCoy. All are either missing in action due to injury or under-performing on the field.

2) Denial

It’s hard, we’ve all been there, but Charles will not play again for your 2015 team. Don’t waste a roster spot on his winning smile—unless it’s a league where you keep players year to year—and cut him immediately. 

Never look back or, more importantly, worry too much about acquiring the men tasked with replacing him on the Chiefs: Charcandrick West and Knile Davis.

3) Anger

Christ, not only did you lose Charles but his workload will get done as a joint task force between two uninspiring backups. Go ahead and destroy the glass in your recycling bin with a golf club—I’ll wait here.

This is a less-than-ideal situation, but realize that your waiver-wire target is West. According to Pro Football Focus, following the Charles injury the 24-year-old, second-year player was on the field for 18 plays compared to Davis’s four.

Kansas City Head Coach Andy Reid insists it’ll be a committee going forward, but like most employers the NFL loves to overwork its underpaid millennials, then rotate in another fresh face out of college to do the same grunt work two years later. 

4) Bargaining

Look this is a moment to make a move and it’s time to send out exploratory text messages to your league. If your team is middling or good (say, treading water with a 2-3 record), compile your assets and package a deal. Last chance to dance.

Josh McCown and Blake Bortles are the most recent evidence that, in fantasy, quarterbacks are interchangeable kickers. Take it from me—a nerd who is undefeated in an expert league on the back of Matthew Stafford, a regressing QB who was relieved of duties this weekend.

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Did you invest a high-draft pick on Luck, Aaron Rodgers, or Cam Newton? Did you luck out and grab Tom Brady late only for his suspension to be overturned? Flip them and play QB roulette week to week: It’s not only an underrated fantasy strategy, but you don’t have a choice.

Are you riding the lightning behind over-performing circumstantial studs? Sell high. Devonta Freeman, Joseph Randle, Carlos Hyde, Chris Johnson, and Giovani Bernard are top-15 fantasy backs. They won’t be in December.

Were you dumb enough to draft Andre Johnson only for him to finally score points… on your bench last Thursday? Everything must go.

About those under-performing studs: Go get one from a frustrated owner. A top-pedigree back like Lacy, McCoy, and Hill is a realistic target. As bad as Murray was the first four weeks of the season, he broke through big in Week 5—it’ll happen for the aforementioned, presently cheap dudes.  

5) Guilt

Remember.

6) Depression

Don’t break the bank by targeting Charles’s understudy in free agency. (The junkyard dogs over at RotoViz have a stellar rundown of how to value him and dissect all 5 feet, 10 inches, and 204 pounds of his athletic ceiling.) 

But due diligence is key. Dreams of a flexing, Galácticos lineup are dead, and we need to raid the work fridge for colleague leftovers. Who might get the ball this weekend? Cheap players to consider who are about that action: Derek Carrier, Zach Ertz, Willie Snead, Reuben Randle, Ty Montgomery, Doug Baldwin,  Antonio Andrews, Ryan Matthews, Gary Barnidge, Jamison Crowder, Stefon Diggs, Brian Quick, Theo Riddick, and Christine Michael because I can see him emerging as the best back in Dallas following the bye, and chiefly Thomas Rawls if no one has stashed him yet.

It’s gross, but these parts will hold.

7) Acceptance and Hope

A quick recap for how to deal: re-stock the cupboard with spare parts (so help me God if you harbor more than one defense, kicker, or QB you deserve every bad result headed your way), trade that top-shelf signal-caller to any sheep who likes wearing jerseys, sell the over-performing producers, buy the suddenly cheap studs.

You’re alone in the dessert with us lepers. Down here, there are no teams.

Screengrab via FanDuel/YouTube

Ramon Ramirez

Ramon Ramirez

Ramon Ramirez is the news director, and formerly the Dot's entertainment editor and evening editor. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, Grantland, Washington City Paper, Austin American-Statesman, and Austin Monitor.